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April 20, 2017 10:08 PM

Sioux Falls And The NCAA

This week, the NCAA picked Sioux Falls to host two more Division II championships and for the first time, a Division I hockey regional. 

While many in the sports community were hoping for more, it still shows the city has a strong relationship with the NCAA. 

From a Division I women's basketball regional to Division II wrestling, volleyball and basketball championships, the NCAA has tested the tournament waters in Sioux Falls for a variety of sports. Next up? Hockey. 

"This will be a big test in the NCAA's eyes. No. 1, we have to sell tickets and get bodies in the building," Chris Semrau said. 

Semrau is the Assistant General Manager of the Denny Sanford Premier Center. He's also a big reason the Division I hockey regional is coming to town. Semrau worked alongside host school North Dakota for 14 years during his tenure at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks. 

"So I'm very familiar with the event. I know it will be a very big deal next March in Sioux Falls," Semrau said. 

If UND makes the tournament, he expects fans to show up to the 10,000-plus seat PREMIER Center in droves. 

"Our fans are already excited on Twitter. They obviously want and expect us to be here. Like Chris said, we'll have a lot of fans coming down the interstate," UND Associate AD for External Operations Kyle Doperalski said. 

With Division I hockey bids for 2020, 2021 and 2022 yet to be decided, Sioux Falls could see this same regional again. UND normally teams up with the Scheels Arena in Fargo, but that only seats around 5,000 for hockey.

"So, we'll go back to the drawing board and see where we're at for 20, 21 and 22," Doperalski said. "Any time you can not get in a plane and you can ride a bus that's what you want. That's the opportunity we will have if our team advances to the NCAA tournament." 

While the PREMIER Center and Sioux Falls Sports Authority are excited about hockey moving forward and hosting another Division II wrestling championship in 2020, they're also still waiting to hear about the Division I women's regionals for 2021 and 2022. 

Meanwhile, not too far away, the Sanford Pentagon is looking at events outside of the NCAA world. The unique facility only landed the 2020 Division II volleyball championships after capturing a handful of bids the last time around. 

"Kind of assumed that would happen. These things are cyclical in nature. They'll come back to Sioux Falls. They'll be back to the Pentagon. It wasn't deflating in any way. We're excited for volleyball and I think we'll see the basketball events come back again," Pentagon Executive Director Jesse Smith said.  

For the first time this next March, Smith says the facility will host the men's and women's DII Elite Eight at the same time. 

"That's something the NCAA hasn't done before ever in the history. We're excited for that challenge and it certainly will be a challenge to have both of those running jointly," Smith said. 

As for Division I men's first and second round basketball games, Sioux Falls Sports Authority Executive Director Bryan Miller says it's an uphill battle when you're going against cities the size of Des Moines and Omaha. 

"Those are fairly large cities. So we're competing with some cities that are a half million, maybe larger," Miller said. 

The Sioux Falls Sports Authority will still target that event, but it's also looking at other sports. 

"For example, Division II women's and men's swimming at the Midco Aquatic Center. Stuff like that. Kind of looking at different events across the city as well that we can maybe go after or have a chance at placing a competitive bid," Miller said. 

Miller says getting more NCAA events would have been ideal, but he's hoping this leads to new relationships with other professional and amateur athletic groups.  

Miller: Positive that we have opportunities, negative that we didn't get as many NCAA events. We're thinking of this as another opportunity to showcase the city, especially in that sporting world. 
Matt Holsen: What else are you looking at?
Miller: We'll let you know.

Miller says he expects the NCAA to announce the host sites for the 2021 and 2022 Division I women's basketball regionals later this year. He believes Sioux Falls has a good shot to land the event at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center again.

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